ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Power Industry Challenges New York Subsidies Plan For Upstate Nuclear Plants.

EnergyWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Rahim, Subscription Publication) reports that NRG Energy and a group representing competitive power generators have launched a legal challenge against a key part of New York state’s Clean Energy Standard: “its subsidies to nuclear power plants.” The groups say the subsidies “give nuclear an unfair leg up against other competitive generators and, in so doing, violate federal jurisdiction over wholesale power markets.” The companies want the court to “invalidate the nuclear part of the program.” New York state’s Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman, “said she’s confident New York will win in court.” Zibelman called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “right out of [the] fossil fuel industry’s playbook,” asserting that the “The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the rights of states to protect their environment for the welfare [of] citizens.”

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Bailey) reports that the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan Wednesday. The Washington Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Siciliano) reports that the coalition of utility companies “argues that it is illegal for the public utility commission ‘to raise electric rates’ across the state ‘solely to save several New York nuclear plants that, allegedly, can no longer compete successfully in the federally regulated wholesale electric power market,’ the coalition and its allies said.” One of the group’s key arguments “refers to Supreme Court precedent from the last year siding with the [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] when it comes to states establishing power plant subsidies.” The high court held that only the commission has the authority to regulate wholesale electricity markets because states’ subsidies would affect electricity being conveyed across state lines.

Some Large Industrial Companies Threaten To Move Away If Subsidies Plan Goes Forward. The Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Zambito) reports that a “groundswell of opposition has sprung up in recent days” to the proposal, with groups like “Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the New York Public Interest Research Group organizing a petition to head off what they’re calling ‘The Cuomo Tax.’” One estimate suggests the proposal “will add some $3.4 billion to utility bills over the next five years, while another predicts some $7 billion in payments to the upstate plants over the duration of the plan.” Energy-intensive power users “like large industrial companies will pay significantly more than $2 a month” and some of them have “hinted that if the plan moves ahead they would consider taking their business elsewhere, the Journal News/ has learned.”

Higher Education

NIH Awards $25M To Hopkins For Innovation Center.

The Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20) reports the National Institutes of Health has awarded Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine a seven-year, $25 million grant “to form a trial innovation center with Tufts University School of Medicine.” NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences “awarded the grant to Hopkins’ Brain Injury Outcomes program and its Institute for Clinical and Translational Research to develop a framework for studies conducted between different institutions by collaborating with Tufts.”

DC Council Considering Beefing Up Oversight Of Student Loan Servicers.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Douglas-Gabriel) reports the Washington, DC Council is considering “legislation that would give the District greater oversight of the companies that collect student loan payments,” noting that the measure would make the District “one of a handful of jurisdictions to regulate the multi-billion-dollar industry.” The piece notes that consumer advocates and elected officials have criticized student loan servicers “for failing to help place and keep people in affordable repayment plans,” and notes that while ED “draws criticism for lax monitoring of these companies, states are playing more of a role to help residents manage their student debt.”

UCLA: Lessons From June Shooting Lead To Security Upgrades.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/19, Resmovits) reports that UCLA on Tuesday released a report on the lessons learned from an analysis of the June 1 attack that left an engineering professor and a student perpetrator dead. The report detailed “the steps it will take to improve its emergency response and attempt to prevent future crises,” such as “better training in emergency procedures…as well as adding locks, using faster emergency communications software, sending out more frequent alerts, and helping staff and faculty learn to detect emotional distress.”

ASEE’s Paper Repository
Explore our vast paper collection from the Annual Conference and other events, dating back 20 years.

Norman Fortenberry Co-Chairs NASEM Project
ASEE’s ED recently co-chaired a workshop on “Enhancing Teachers’ Voices in Policy Making Related to K-12 Engineering Education.”


Research Finds Worsening Gender Gap In Computing Fields.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Guynn) reports new research by Accenture and the nonprofit group Girls Who Code warns that the number of women in the computing workforce will decline to 22 percent from 24 percent by 2025 if nothing is done to encourage more girls to study computer science. “The research shows that the gender gap in computing is getting worse, not better,” said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. The research recommends hands-on experience with computer games designed for girls in elementary and middle school. Additionally, the report recommends sending girls to summer camps where they would learn about computer science.

Fox Business Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Elavia) reports Accenture’s North America CEO Julie Sweet said that “training more female teachers is key to closing the industry’s gender gap.” According to the study, “girls’ interest in computing increases when they are taught by a female, while boys’ interest remains steady regardless of their teacher’s gender.”

Colorado Tech Firms Facing Challenges Filling 10,000 Job Openings.

The Denver Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/19) profiles National Cybersecurity Center CEO Ed Rios, who said at the Colorado Technology Association’s Tech Summit on Wednesday that Colorado firms need to fill some 10,000 job openings. The piece says Rios said employers “need to think differently about how to fill those jobs,” quoting him saying, “We need to extend beyond our traditional academic methods of teaching cyber. We still need cyberengineers, hardware engineers and computer scientists. I’m not saying to stop that. But at the same time, we need to bring in relevant skill sets to match the pace of technology and the changes going on. That way, when a person graduates, they have immediate value.”

Global Developments

Opinion: Zuckerberg And Chan Should Give More Funding To Scientists In Developing World.

Nina Dudnik writes in a Scientific American Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Dudnik) “Guest Blog” that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan should give more of the $3 billion they pledged to cure all diseases to the “thousands of scientists in the developing world who have spent decades toiling against the diseases that affect the majority of humanity,” as opposed to “the high-profile institutions in their backyard.” Dudnik argues that medical researchers and other scientists in developing countries are doing important work in many fields, but that they are often constrained by “limited access to research funding,” which Zuckerberg and Chan could address. Dudnik also points out that “a typical NIH grant for a US scientist can be hundreds of thousands of dollars” while “typical grants for developing world scientists may be capped at $15,000 and they may come with restrictions on how the money is spent.”

NYTimes: Kenyan Wind Farm Project Shows Great Promise.

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Subscription Publication) editorializes that the wind farm development around the shores of Kenya’s Lake Turkana is “being closely followed across sub-Saharan Africa, where almost two-thirds of the population still has no access to electricity.” The Times says that such a wind-energy development is what Kenya and other sub-Saharan countries need: “abundant power that helps each nation meet its obligations under the Paris climate-change agreement, unleashes economic potential and lights dark homes.” But the project “also demonstrates the huge hurdles in undertaking large projects in a region of poor infrastructure, widespread corruption and weak financial markets.” The Times hopes the wind farm project in Kenya will succeed because it “would be good for Africa, and good for global climate.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Transportation Group Says White House Should Oversee Driverless Cars.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Halsey, Laris) reports a white paper released Thursday by the recently formed Alliance for Transportation Innovation argues that the next president should move supervision of driverless vehicles under the auspices of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in order to better keep up with the rapid pace at which the technology is emerging. Paul Brubaker, the chairman of the alliance, said that the Department of Transportation “is not equipped to lead something this big, this complex,” but said that the Office of Science and Technology Policy “has access to the talent, to the mandate and will have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively operationalize” driverless-vehicle technology.

USDOT To Establish Autonomous Vehicle Advisory Committee.

Truckinginfo Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Whitacre) reports Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the US Department of Transportation will be establishing “an Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation to help frame federal policy on the development and deployment of autonomous cars and trucks.”

Transport Topics Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Elfin) reports the new committee will be responsible for “assessing DOT’s current research, policy and regulatory support to advance the safe and effective use of autonomous vehicles before presenting recommendations to the secretary,” in addition to exploring “emerging or ‘not-yet-conceived’ innovations to ensure that DOT is prepared when disruptive technologies emerge.”

Litigation Against EPA’s Rule On New Power Plants Mirrors CPP Case.

Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Reilly, Subscription Publication) reports that a lawsuit over the EPA’s carbon rule for new power plants “features similar battle lines, many of the same attorneys and the same federal court as the litigation over the Clean Power Plan.” The two rules are “inextricably linked under the Clean Air Act” as the EPA “cannot require existing power plants to meet carbon dioxide limits under Section 111(d) of the law, as it has done in the Clean Power Plan, without requiring new or modified plants to meet limits under Section 111(b),” Greenwire explains.

Silverstein Discusses Feasibility Of Clinton’s Call For “Open Borders” Energy Grid.

In a piece for Forbes Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20), Ken Silverstein examines the feasibility of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s proposal for “an energy system that crosses borders.” Silverstein writes, “given that the utilities in this country find it nearly impossible to expand their transmission systems even a few miles, it would seem insurmountable to stretch the wires from one continent to another,” although grid modernization “is making those systems more efficient and allowing more space on them to carry wind and solar electrons.” With more infrastructure, Silverstein says it would be “theoretically possible in some cases” to transmit renewable energy across continents. Silverstein mentions that “California will be increasing its renewable energy standard to 50 percent by 2030, up from 33 percent by 2020,” which will eventually mean that “the state’s investor-owned utilities – Edison International’s Southern California Edison, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric – will need to construct new transmission lines.”

San Diego Officials Announce Delay Of Solar Project.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20) reports officials in San Diego “announced a fresh delay” yesterday “in a solar project that Mayor Kevin Faulconer introduced at a news conference a year ago.” The most recent “extension pushes the agreement with SunEdison back to at least April 2017 and perhaps as late as June of next year.” In a statement issued yesterday the city said, “The city and SunEdison have settled on a tentative agreement that will extend the commercial operation date by approximately six to eight months and SunEdison has agreed to compensate the city for the opportunity costs related to the delay.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

White House Will Welcome “Kid Science Advisors” On Friday.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20, Matos) reports the White House will welcome 11 “Kid Science Advisors” – outstanding students from among the 2,500 who submitted ideas about science, technology, engineering, and math education to the White House. The students are scheduled to meet with President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, as well as astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, NASA Director Charles Bolden, and National Science Foundation Director France Cordova.

Montana Schools Chief Releases College, Career Readiness Guidelines.

The Billings (MT) Gazette Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (10/20) reports Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau on Thursday released “a framework for unraveling the meaning behind a wide-open phrase — ‘college and career ready.’” The guidelines include “a set of measurable objectives indicating college and career readiness.” The guidelines recommend that “students identify a career path” and complete at least three items on a list of related benchmarks.

Utah CTE Event Aims To Connect Students With Employers.

KSL-TV Share to FacebookShare to Twitter Salt Lake City (10/20) reports on an event held in Sandy, Utah on October 12-13 called the Pathways to Professions showcase, in which some 10,000 students and adults participated. The piece quotes Jordan School District Director of Career and Technical Education Jason Skidmore saying, “Our conversations have been around how we connect students with industry….about getting from point A to point B and that career, that job.” Some 200 firms were represented.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

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